A Look at Discipline

Everyone I meet follows some kind of Discipline. We practice disciplines such as raising children, following a career path or paying our expenses. Culturally we are meant to believe that the discipline of acquiring objects, peak experiences, and money are most noble. Perhaps you have not thought of these activities as ‘a discipline’? Lets take another look.

Disciplines can be life-long such as maintaining a daily meditation practice or short lived such attending a conference. To follow a discipline is to make a vow. That vow is often unspoken, but if you look closely, you will find out the vows you have internally taken. The vow includes many elements: to show up, to apply limits, to engage optimal conditions, to attend to learning, to be aware globally and specifically to what is harmful or fruitful to the process… A discipline requires us to work deeply with certain habits or behaviors in order to learn a new skill, a new way of living or at the very least to reach a goal. So, if you look closely at a discipline that you have followed, you will find out quite a bit about your relationship to diligence, time, effort, difficulty, truth, rules, technique…

I have found that one of the most important aspects of following a discipline is that interest must come from inside. Others can encourage you, point it out to you, and describe how it may be a fruitful endeavor for you. Others can even take you to that class or inspire you to begin. Nevertheless, after that initial spark, the interest, curiosity, enthusiasm, effort must come from inside. This is not as grand an idea as intention, but rather a small sense that arises. The sense is that this discipline seems very ‘rich’ and you would like to partake of that richness to ‘learn/experience more’. This internal sense is bigger than a hunch, as it has definite non-conceptual sensory-physical energy within it. It is this energetic awakening, to subtlety beyond your mind’s voice, that will provide you with the resilience to follow the discipline, even when faced with the inevitable difficulties of any path. Look at a discipline that you have followed, what is one of the most important aspects in your experience?

I have the fortune to work with high level competitive figure skaters. They train on the ice for easily 5 hours daily, 6 days a week. They train off the ice 2 hours daily, 7 days a week. Three to four times a week, they have sessions with support people such as physical therapists, psychologists, myself, and massage therapists. They move here to work with a coach. They live often without their parents and family. They take college or high school courses. They see choreographers, clothing designers, and boot & blade specialists… Finally they have the competitions, where all that effort culminates in a scored event.

Many of these skaters begin at 8 years of age and are driven in their discipline by familiar patterns of behavior: pleasing any outside person of ‘authority’. This works to a point, until they are faced with inevitable physical, emotional & mental difficulties. A young woman of high school age is currently facing what she sees as overwhelming difficulty. For the past year, she consistently medals in the top three after her short skating program, but while skating her long program she faces overpowering mental, emotional blocks that affect her ability to skate. The result? She finishes in last place. Now, she asks, what should she do? Is her mind correct when it tells her there is something wrong with her? Does she have any worth when the coach is not pleased? How can she still follow this discipline, Now? Who & what can she rely upon to help her modify the methods she has used within her discipline?

This young skater is faced with difficulties in an extremely competitive discipline. However, every day when you follow any discipline you are faced with the similar difficulties. I ask you to connect to the interest inside. How do you reignite the energy to continue when faced with a wall? Do you know how to work with your judgmental, critical mind? Who or what could you rely upon to learn something fruitful for this path, this discipline, right now? No matter what discipline anyone follows, be it parenting, career, or competitive figure skating, we are faced with physical, emotional and mental challenges. This is the nature of disciplines, they require us to look at, understand and perhaps even shift out of the comfortable box we had thought was the limit of whom we were, are and will be. Perhaps following a Discipline is not such a tremendously arduous activity, but a definer of life itself.

I wish for you to explore this word Discipline. Look closely at the disciplines you follow. Find out about your internal interest, right now. Find out what you rely upon for support, education, assistance, encouragement when faced with difficulties. Find out what is harmful or helpful in the process of following your discipline. Apply what you know from Buddhism’s three disciplines: the practice of ethics, meditation and wisdom. Find out about Discipline in your life, so that you can continue, adjust, start afresh or with the great kindness teach another how to discover what is life itself.

Copyright© 2016 Gail Gustafson, Mahakala Radio

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